A US ‘cowboy pastor’ who claims his horse therapy can help gay people become straight is closing his ranch.
GSN first exposed ‘conversion therapy’ operations at the Cowboy Church of Virginia and its pastor’s associated ranch in 2012.
Now the pastor Raymond Bell and his wife are ‘ceasing operations’ by August 2021 and selling their herd of horses.
Bell is listed as the ‘Cowman’ pastor of the Cowboy Church of Virginia. Meanwhile he and his wife also run a ranch called Overcoming Adversity Through Silence (OATS).
In 2012 he told an undercover GSN journalist he used ‘Equine Assisted Psychotherapy’ (EAP) to teach men to stop being gay and become more masculine.
He said: ‘EAP can help any person who is living the homosexual lifestyle or involved in it.
‘The first common misconception is that homosexuality is genetic, or hereditary, or as some say “born this way”.
‘Homosexuality is actually a type of addiction. It is not “curable” as a disease because it is a “choice driven” by the person.’
Bell: Being gay is ‘a choice’
A year later in 2013, Bell told GSN he hoped to take the scheme ‘international’. At the time he likened the LGBT+ community to a ‘gang’ which simply didn’t want its members to change.
However, his expansion plan never came to fruition.
OATS still markets the ‘Acceptance and Truth Project’ online. It tells vulnerable gay and questioning people they can choose their sexuality and that Bell can help that process:
‘You can be whoever you want to be and live however you want to live. But it is now, and has always been, a personal choice.’
However, leading psychological and psychiatric bodies around the world agree your sexuality is not a choice. Moreover, they warn that attempts to change through ‘conversion therapy’ are dangerous and futile.
Bell also carries out other therapies and activities at the ranch. But in an email yesterday he told supporters they are shutting down:
‘Two environments are converging at the same time for our company.
‘First is our current lease is expiring in August of 2021. Without another property to relocate to, we will have to cease operations.
‘Second is the current crisis in our country. As with many other businesses – we have for the first time gone (thus far) with no clients and thus no business or income.’
He announced they will sell their herd of horses and cease trading before the lease expires next summer.
2020 is a bad year for ‘conversion therapists’
Bell’s decision to close comes as organizations that try to ‘cure’ or ‘change’ LGBT+ people face unprecedented pressure.
Last month one of the largest organizations guilty of the ‘cures’ in the US announced it was closing.
Moreover, Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for the presidency, has promised he will ban the ‘therapies’ if he gets to the White House.
There are already bans in 20 US states: New Jersey, California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, Utah and Virginia as well as Washington DC and Puerto Rico.
So far only five countries – Malta, Ecuador, Brazil, Taiwan and Germany – have banned ‘conversion therapy’ in law.
However, a number of countries are considering a ban. They include the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and Chile.
Indeed, international LGBT+ organization ILGA World predicted 2020 could be a breakthrough year on the issue worldwide.
Meanwhile new research has highlighted the terrible damage the ‘therapies’ do. The US anti-LGBT+ suicide organization The Trevor Project researched the impact on young people.
It found 7% of LGBT+ youths had gone through ‘gay cures’. Moreover it confirmed that in 80.8% of cases a religious leader conducted the so-called ‘therapy’.
And researchers found those who have undergone the ‘therapy’ are 2.5 times more likely to have made multiple suicide attempts in the last year.
Help is out there
If ‘conversion therapy’ or poor your mental health affect you, help is out there. You can find a list of LGBT+ resources and helplines all around the world here. Please note, some of the helplines may have different operating hours during the coronavirus pandemic.